Bill Zylmans will sell his last strawberries at his W&A Farms stand on Westminster Highway on Sunday
When he left school in the mid-1970s for the last time, Bill Zylmans returned to the family farm and told his father, Wim, “we go big or we go home”.
On Sunday, July 3, it will be time to come home for the veteran Richmond farmer and pillar of the potato and strawberry industry.
This weekend, Zylmans will hand over the last pallet of its famous strawberries to 78-year-old W&A Farms at Westminster Highway and No. 8 Road, after selling a 20-acre plot in the fall of last year.
No more pre-dawn forays into winter wilderness.
No more fighting with the City of Richmond over irrigation, drainage or giant roadside strawberry signs – this latest feud ended in court…an argument he won.
No, the 65-year-old calls it a career – and it has literally been his whole life – in the agricultural production sector.
And there is one thing in particular that Zylmans hopes to experience for the first time, before the end of the summer.
Holidays? What is that?
“I can take one of these things, what are they called?” Oh, yes, a vacation. Something I never really did,” joked Zylmans, who said he used to send his wife and kids on vacation because there was always too much to do on the farm.
“Maybe I’ll start enjoying life a little more.” I went to Hawaii once, but I plugged the dozen cameras into all the storage barns, checking them 12 times a day.
He said he didn’t want to sell the product side of the business until he was sure his adult children were “well advanced in their careers.” They are living their dream now.
“We put one of the properties up for sale and the good money hit the table.
“But I still have my other land, the farm and cattle in Delta and two more here in Richmond…the 30 acre parcel here on Westminster and a few others in Gilbert, still growing grasses and green crops.”
“The product (side) was taking a long time. And last season was horrible weather-wise. I won’t miss what I tell you.
Although he agreed to sell the plot last fall, Zylmans said he wanted to give strawberry season one last try, but had “no idea what winter would be like and spring.
“I’m kinda glad I’m not going through that again.
“Moving my herd of cattle over the winter was probably one of my toughest days. That’s when it became real.
“I started doing this when I was nine years old. I was born and raised on this farm.
Not yet fully retired
Zylmans will continue to be involved in the agricultural industry, whether in consulting, tending his remaining land or in his role as President of the Potato Council of Canada.
“I always want to be involved and help where I can,” he added.
“But will I miss the customers but not the policy of the municipality.
“I took great pride in bringing the crops to harvest and personally passing them on to customers. It’s a great feeling.
“And as my mother always said, ‘grow good produce and it will sell’.”